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(Adds information on dividends, gross debt)
By Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's Petrobras beat second quarter profit estimates on Wednesday, as higher Brent prices, strong natural gas sales and relatively controlled expenses boosted the company's bottom line.
In an evening securities filing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as the company is formally known, reported a quarterly net income of 42.855 billion reais ($8.29 billion), up from a loss in the same period last year and well above the Refinitiv consensus estimate of 30.7 billion reais.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, came in at 61.94 billion reais, up about 148% from the second quarter of 2020 - which was severely hit by COVID-19 lockdowns - and above the Refinitiv consensus estimate of 51.7 billion reais.
In comments accompanying the results, Petrobras attributed the beat to a number of factors, including strong domestic and international sale volumes and a 13% increase in Brent prices from the previous quarter.
In particular, revenue from natural gas sales jumped some 23.4% in quarterly terms to 7.01 billion reais, as demand was boosted by a nationwide drought which has severely limited the availability of hydropower.
A 12.2% appreciation of the Brazilian real against the dollar in quarterly terms also boosted results, Petrobras said.
Operational expenses, meanwhile, fell 9.1% in quarterly terms, which the company attributed to reduced costs incurred by contractors and a significant tax adjustment that effectively allowed Petrobras to avoid hundreds of millions of reais worth of double taxation.
Earlier on Wednesday evening, Petrobras said its board had approved two extraordinary dividend payouts in 2021 totaling 31.6 billion reais. In October, the company changed its bylaws to allow extraordinary dividend payments in certain situations.
After years of cost cutting and asset sales, the company is beginning to approach its gross debt target of $60 billion. Petrobras reported a gross debt of $63.7 billion in the second quarter, down $7.3 billion from the first quarter and $27.5 billion from the same period a year ago.
($1 = 5.17 reais) (Reporting by Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Sonya Hepinstall and Aurora Ellis)